President Obama, in what he described as an "all-hands-on-deck strategy" to boost the economy, announced a new program Monday aimed at training 10,000 new American engineers every year.
The engineering announcement was one of several touted by the president during a visit Monday to North Carolina, where he toured a plant of energy-efficient lighting manufacturer Cree, Inc., and met with his jobs council to discuss the new initiatives.
Last week, the president announced a new training program in the manufacturing sector. The program he unveiled Monday would try to ensure U.S. engineering students have the skills to qualify for openings that companies sometimes struggle to fill.
"We're falling behind in the very fields we know are going to be our future. ... We must do better than that," Obama said.
Under the program, Obama said private companies will join the government to promote education in science, technology, engineering and math. They'll offer incentives to students to finish their degrees and help universities pay for their engineering programs.
He also said companies will double the number of summer internships they offer.
The president also announced what he called the "better buildings initiative," a push to upgrade buildings for energy efficiency that would be co-led by former President Bill Clinton. He claimed the upgrades, while putting contractors to work, could in the long run save companies $40 billion a year -- money that could be put to use hiring new workers.
"It is a win-win-win-win proposition," Obama said.
The president's jobs council is headed by General Electric chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt.
In an opinion piece published Monday in The Wall Street Journal, Immelt and American Express CEO and chairman Ken Chennault laid out a series of jobs council ideas to increase employment, including easing visa applications to attract more tourists and the plan to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings.
The two top executives also called for improved worker training, saying employers can't fill more than 2 million jobs in part because workers don't have advanced manufacturing skills. They recommended cutting red tape to make it easier for contractors to obtain permits and for small businesses to obtain government-backed loans.
"America needs more growth," Immelt and Chennault wrote. "The United States needs to reverse trends that developed over a long period of time, and the solutions aren't easy politically, socially or economically."
Obama's options are limited after spending about $800 billion in 2009 on an economic stimulus program. The administration and Congress are now focused on cutting long-term spending, the price for increasing the government's borrowing authority. The government says it will exceed its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling on Aug. 2.
At the same time, unemployment increased a tenth of a point in April and again in May, bringing the joblessness rate to 9.1 percent. After voicing cautious optimism over the past several months that the recovery was beginning to take hold, Obama is now taking a different tack.
"I wish I could tell you there was a quick fix to our economic problems," he said in his Saturday Internet and radio address. "But the truth is, we didn't get into this mess overnight, and we won't get out of it overnight."
The president said Monday he's "optimistic" about the country's economic future but not satisfied.
"I will not be satisfied until everyone who wants a good job that offers some security has a good job that offers security," Obama told the crowd.
In unveiling his jobs council proposals in North Carolina, Obama chose a state with the 10th highest unemployment rate in the country and the state where he won his narrowest victory in the 2008 presidential campaign.
The visit focuses on Research Triangle, the central section of the state bounded by Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill and which features such top academic institutions as Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State.
Later in the day, Obama will attend three fundraisers in donor-rich Miami. He will end his travels Tuesday in Puerto Rico, a visit considered essential as he courts the Puerto Rican vote in the mainland, especially in Florida.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.